Saturday, May 21, 2011
Emotions and Reasoning - Liberal and Conservative View of the Economy
[from billlifka, posted by Ira with his permission]
Emotions and Reasoning
“It seems that expecting people to be convinced by the facts flies in the face of, you know, the facts,” so writes Chris Mooney in Mother Jones.com. Mooney does a credible job supporting that statement by citing University studies. What he calls “motivated reasoning” builds on an insight of neuroscience that reasoning is suffused with emotion. Not only are the two inseparable but the positive or negative feelings about people, things and ideas arise much more rapidly than related conscious thoughts; in a matter of milliseconds.
This can be detected with an EEG device long before human awareness. Humans developed and survived because evolution selected them to react very quickly to stimuli in their environment. It’s a basic survival skill called “fight-or-flight” reflex. Humans apply this not only to predators but to data. By the time humans are reasoning, it’s after a rationalizing of their prior emotional commitments. Therefore, much human “reasoning” is a means to retaining preconceived beliefs. In it, humans give greater heed to evidence and arguments that bolster their beliefs and spend disproportionate energy refuting arguments they find uncongenial.
Does Education Promote Reason?
Education does have an effect on “motivated reasoning’ but exactly in the opposite manner one might expect. Studies indicate that college educated people are significantly more likely to cling to their beliefs in the face of opposing scientific data than those with less education. The more educated one is, the more likely to generate all kind of reasons supporting an emotional belief. It’s very hard to change the minds of “smart” people. Most of the studies cited by Mooney dealt with Conservative or Liberals dealing with political issues for which scientific data was available and which data was compiled using methodology judged to be scientifically correct. Thusly, this phenomenon applies directly to my current essay series.
We All Wear Blinders
The mix of studies cited indicated that: left or right, Conservative or Liberal, all wear blinders in some situations. The question is: what can be done to counteract human nature? It’s clear that to convince humans to accept new evidence, it must be presented in a context that doesn’t trigger a defensive, emotional reaction. Leading with the facts is likely to be useless. Leading with the values may give the facts a fighting chance. In fact, leading with the facts is likely to trigger the “fight” response, causing the target of facts to become even more hardened in prior beliefs.
The attached essay continues a comparison of Conservative to Liberal thought. Any who have watched believers in both views “discuss” issues on a TV panel know that, most likely from the beginning, the opposing panelists won’t listen to opposing arguments, often “talking over” the opponents comments and disregarding entreaties of the moderator to give each a fair say. Often, such behavior is caused by a foolish belief that the person who talks the most, wins. More often, it’s caused by the “flight” response; a running away from threatening ideas.
If it were possible to do so, a moderator might task the panel to find values, within the scope of discussion, upon which panelists of both ideologies could agree. An example of such value in this essay might be a desire for all members of a society to live a productive life in which all are able to earn a living above some reasonable standard. In real life politics, forget it!
Economy: Left versus Right
There are a number of issues addressed by StudentNewsDaily.com to describe differences [between Liberal views to those of Conservatives]. The economy is one of these.
Liberals believe that a market system in which government regulates the economy is best and that government must protect citizens from the greed of big business. They assert that, unlike the private sector, the government is motivated by public interest. They know that government regulation in all areas of the economy is needed to level the playing field.
Conservatives believe that the free market system, competitive capitalism and private enterprise create the greatest opportunity and the highest standard of living for all. They assert that free markets produce more economic growth, more jobs and higher standards of living than those systems burdened by excessive government regulation.
The Author’s view [billlifka]
The above comparisons are true, as far as they go. Liberals have a massive lack of trust in privately owned and operated businesses of all kinds. They believe that citizen/consumers are not capable of avoiding the products of companies which charge exorbitant prices and sell low quality or harmful merchandise. They are quite certain that government bureaucracies are much more capable of choosing optimum suppliers than are citizens. They have no problem with federal bureaucrats picking “winners and losers” in every business category. Just as they’d like all citizens to prosper equally, they’d like the same to be true for businesses. The evils they attribute to “big” business somehow aren’t part of “big” government, in their view.
Conservatives have a massive lack of trust in government, especially in federal government and in federal government’s ability to manage the economy. Conservatives believe that involvement of the government in economic matters is almost certain to damage the economy. Conservatives have no problem with the fact that certain companies may perform so well, compared to competitors, they prosper greatly and gain dominant market shares. In the main, Conservatives accept the writings of Adam Smith as describing an optimum economic system.
While Liberal economic philosophy is understandable as dictatorial intent to equalize wealth among all citizens, it seems to be totally wrong-headed in view of world experience. It’s clear that (what is really) Socialism has failed every time it’s been tried. Capitalism is the preference of Conservatives and it has usually succeeded; often spectacularly, as in America. While the gap in wealth between the better off and poorer off is greater under Capitalism, the poorer are usually better off than the “equals” in Socialistic systems. If America is used as an example, the nation’s wealthiest citizens contribute mightily to charities that assist those at the lowest end of the economic ladder. This is all as Adam Smith predicted and preached.
Smith did prescribe a role for government. It was as a protector from external attacks, whether military or economic and as a sort of “referee” on internal matters. If he were living today, Smith would have moved to America to become a regular guest on Fox News. Karl Marx would be teaching at Columbia and be lionized by Liberal Think Tanks.